THE HISTORY AND BACKGROUND OF SHROVE TUESDAY - DR. GIL HAAS, ST. AUGUSTINE OF CANTERBURY EPISCOPAL CHURCH
Last Tuesday, the Tuesday before Ash Wednesday, is called Shrove Tuesday. Shrove is a form of the word “shrive”, which means to be absolved. The name comes from the custom of confessing one’s sins and being “shriven” before the start of Lent. In some churches, the “shriving” or “pancake” bells are rung to invite the penitent to confession and to remind households to begin making pancakes. In the British Commonwealth, the day is known as “Pancake Day” - a day to rid one’s pantry of the fatty foods, such as eggs, milk, flour, and sugar that are to be given up during Lent. Pancakes have been found in cookbooks as far back as 1439, and the tossing of them is equally ancient. For example, Pasquil’s book from 1619 suggests “And every man and maide doe take their turne, And tosse their Pancakes up for feare they burne." Although pancake races are scheduled throughout the United Kingdom on Shrove Tuesday, the most famous one is in Olney, Buckinghamshire. During the race, a pancake must be tossed three times. The first housewife to arrive at the church, complete the course, serve the pancake to the bellringer, and kiss him is the winner.
~Dr. Gil Haas, St. Augustine of Canterbury Episcopal Church